Since putting my thoughts into a blog about working from home, I have become hyper-aware of when I follow or don’t follow my own advice. ‘Advice’ is a loose term, I try to stay away from heavily prescriptive advice because, quite frankly, who am I to tell you what to do with your day? My only aim is to encourage people to go easier on themselves. The world can be tough enough without you being mean to yourself too.
My own inner voice, the one that dishes out all that non-advice you didn’t ask for, does tend to haunt me. A classic and oft-repeated example is my accidentally turning a quick five-minute brew break into a 90-minute, four pots of tea, entire packet of digestive biscuits scenario.
Small aside: I would like it to be known that I am a full supporter of eating a whole pack of biscuits. Sometimes you need to allow that kind of low-level hedonism in your day-to-day life. I dont ever want to live in a two biscuit world, heaven forbid it be one of my own creation.
Today I am sharing my personal experience of scheduling expectation vs reality. Having written and re-read this I do wonder how I get actually anything done, and also if I might be quite mad. But, and here’s the thing, I have managed to set up a functioning business with happy customers and money in the bank so something must be working out.
Meditate and try a read a few pages of my current book. Practise yoga for 30 minutes. Enjoy a nice hot shower.
Snooze until nearly 8am. Best case scenario, I squeeze in a 10/15 minute yoga session. Jump in the shower for a quick rinse.
Double espresso and a pint of water, feed the dog and watch the news (or sports, my other half is in charge of breakfast TV). Take the dog out for a lovely meandering walk when my partner leaves for work, and take time to enjoy my breakfast when I get back.
Double espresso as my other half leaves the house. Having missed my planned cue to take the dog out, I sit down to enjoy my coffee and talk to the dog. If I didn’t practice yoga in the morning I add it to the Task List as a little pre- lunchtime yoga break. (Spoiler alert, the lunchtime yoga never happens but you have to admire my optimism.)
Make a cup of tea, sit down to check my emails, review the Task List accordingly, respond to urgent emails and schedule time to reply or action others. Check social channels for enquiries and relevant news, trying to not get lost and stick to around 20 minutes of business-related scrolling.
I can’t believe it’s already 9. How did that happen? I spend a few minutes debating whether to take the dog out now or at lunch. We go now. I’m sure I won’t have many emails anyway.
“Blessed are the flexible, for they will not be bent out of shape”Unknown source
Ready to start my current job. Whether its editing, copywriting or working on my own content, I do what Task List commands. The aim is to focus on one thing at a time and not induce self-panic by looking at what’s next.
Make a brew, check my emails, obviously there are loads for the first time this week, and respond to any enquiries. Try to have a quick browse through social media constantly having to put my business head back on and not get distracted by my personal accounts. One of the most difficult things for any human to do, bar none.
Time to take a couple of minutes break away from my desk: a short stretch, perhaps make another brew, and definitely give the dog a big dose of attention. Then back to the task in hand. Maybe a new job, maybe continuing the one before. Task List leads the way on this one, I merely follow his guidance. (For some reason I not only made Task List some sort of powerfull all-knowing entity in this post, even though it’s an app I downloaded and wrote. I’m not changing it, I’m just going to leave it. Task List is a man apparently, even though it isn’t, it’s a list. Not sure what this says about me.
(This little aside really belongs in the much sillier “Reality” column on the right.)
It’s already 11, so I need to consult Task List and and re-organise it. I start my most important task for the day, manage to focus for the best part of the hour, but then become overly self-congratulatory at my productivity thus far. Of course, now it’s time to start thinking about lunch, and I begin making meaningless preparations like getting a plate out of the cupboard, and selecting hot sauces in between three minute spurts of work at my desk.
Another short break from the screen. If I’m ahead of schedule or even finished early, I will go for another walk with the dog. Otherwise, I continue on with Task List’s tasks.
Accidentally already made lunch by 11:50 by gradually assembling it over the last 20 minutes, so I wait, twiddling my thumbs, and pottering around in the kitchen untill 12 o’clock to eat it. I know I can eat whenever I want, but I’m still trying to save face and stick to the schedule I created. I mindlessly sit down to eat in front of the TV using my book as a TV tray.
“To achieve great things; two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time”Leonard Bernstein
Lunch. Pre-made or pre-bought, sit on the sofa and read a book.
I’m already watching TV so reading my book is now out of the question. Buy a new book on amazon. Current book is on my lap, by my side or sometimes, ridiculously, in my hand throughout all of this.
Edit work from earlier in the day. Start the my next task; be it a new job, following up on emails or brainstorming ideas for content.
Make a small snack because lunch was ages ago now. Have an emergency meeting with Task List and realise I was being very optimistic about today’s tasks and we can definitely move this thing and that stuff to tomorrow.
Reading and note-taking for my university course.
Re-jig a few more items in a collaborative pow-wow with Task List.
Check my emails again, making sure I have done everything I needed to do today. Prepare tomorrow’s to do list.
Back to work, finding an unexplained level of productivity, getting more done than I could have ever dreamed of, and wondering why I couldn’t have done this at 2pm.
Go for a run.
Wonder who put ‘go for a run’ on my list and potentially end up picking up my current work again at around 7pm. (If I have a deadline for example).
“….it’s not failure if you enjoyed the process”Oprah (I never thought I’d be quoting Oprah but there you go. I like this quote.)
People write books about routine, and punishing (in my opinion) schedules. I am always wondering if these authors stick to these plans so rigidly themselves. I have come to the realisation that yes, in the vast spectrum of humanity there are people who work this way, and there are people who work another way and any way they want, and that is bloody fantastic.
You have to find your own way of approaching your working life. Read, research, gather ideas, and experiment. But, at the end of the day, trying to live your life by someone else’s structure is bound to lead to frustration and burnout.
I am aware of the irony of talking about what I think people need to do. But this is just a medium for me to get my message out. I want to help people remember to relax, and be forgiving to themselves. It’s not possible all the time but the more we remind ourselves, the fewer and farther apart those hard times will be.
I know I don’t follow my own advice. But I try, and really that’s all we can do.